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Hark! A Christmas Story (Prose Poem)

In the year 1958 my life stunk like the part of that big city that smelled of stale beer or worse—the constant odor of yeast. Times were hard for this student. Across the street, the neighborhood tavern’s broken sign flickered drunkenly, Sch~itz Beer; one letter had gone AWOL, but what boozer would care, as long as the watering hole was open for business? Shadows dance in the flickering neon light; the mood’s almost perfect—for slashing my wrist. No, really, I should buy a light bulb for a dump that my stingy landlady rents out as a “studio.” But the redhaired ex-flapper girl turned landlady—I nicknamed her “Red”— doesn’t permit anything over 40 watts. Now and then, she will draws attention to her still impressive breasts, but I wish she’d offer me a 60-watt light bulb instead. It’s so dark in here, roaming roaches collide on my linoleum-covered kitchen floor. Yucky? Not really; they clean up every unwashed cup and bowl. Why fight them? They’ve been here since Adam and Eve set up housekeeping in this place. One small thing: ask not how I can stand this kitchen’s odors. These are trifles when one lives in this city’s brewery district; trust me, I have seen my roaches heave at the stench of brewer’s yeast. It permeates the house, clings to clothes, and ferments the brain. Tonight, by the twinkling of that neon sign, I watch the mother of all roaches lift the linoleum’s upturned corner. Crunch. Something inside me snaps. All right! I give up, and gather my belongings; I’ll humble myself before my parents, and they’ll forgive me. After all, it’s Christmas and I know, Jimmy Stewart will have softened them up by now. “It’s a Wonderful Life” will do it. But here is the big question: Will my landlady let me pass? I owe her rent. Through her open apartment door I hear Bing and Catherine Crosby croon— I tiptoe down the hall. The old TV flickers worse than that Sch~itz sign across the street . . . . But—foiled again; my landlady can sense an escaping rent check. Nothing escapes her sharp eyes and finely-tuned ears. Caught! Then, to my surprise, she gently speaks, “Come right in.” And then she said, “Merry Christmas, young fellow; now close your eyes.” I feel a motherly kiss on my cheek, “This is my gift to you; and never mind the rent,” and with that, she sends me on my way. See? Christmas does soften the heart—even that of a stingy landlady. Or was it because she realized that one can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip . . . me?

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The story told here is exciting, spectacular, and captures my attention immediately. I love the alternating attention to details such as the sign across the street, and random phrases perfectly turned ignite my imagination. I like your title a lot, especially how it ties in to the story's (and Red's) ending note. :)

Amazing job, and thank you for sharing this! I really enjoyed reading it. :)

"The true alchemists do not turn lead into gold; they turn the world into words." -William H. Gass

I'm truly delighted that you took the time it takes to read my rather lengthy prose poem and then comment on it in such a delightful manner. Thank you so very much, and have a Happy New Year, dear Ms Asche.
Van (Jerry)

author comment

my first apartment! Not quite so bad, but it certainly does ring a bell. I left the day that my rent was due for the next month.
Our landlady didn't mess around; first month in advance and on the anniversary of the day you moved in. No rent? Get the @#*$ out! Her grandson was a bruiser and would throw your stuff in the street! Anyway, I too, liked the turn of the phrase and the broken sign. I guess that you might have that new style you are looking for. Nice stuff! ~Geez.

It seems that the days and hours that people
are available for chatroom are staggered and
not a good match for most everyone. How about
if everyone just shows up at the door, whenever
they have a few free minutes?

I feel that I need to apologize for posting such a long prose poem, but it had been on my back burner for years and I couldn't mke up my mind what to do with it. The story is truel, and Red's kiss on my cheek still burns like purgatory's fire. Ladies at advanced age do their best tol keep that memory alife. It's a curse. Lol. Thank you, Sir.

author comment

I am a novice at the “prose poem” shape, structure, and use of white space, really. Like the storyline, tho. Some I’ve read before seem like chain-of-thought writings.

Do you write much in this form?

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No, I'm not overly fond of this form as it has a tendency to turn into straight prose, however I would argue that the story I endeavored to write fits the criteria. By definition, prose poetry is a literary work that exhibits emotional effects and heightened imagery--which I believe I achieved. Thanks Ray; I'm glad you checked this out.

author comment
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